Metaphors and similes are an imaginative galaxy which greater minds than mine have explored. That doesn’t stop me gathering dazzling and original examples to enliven human exchange, expanding the choice of vigorous, beautiful ways to sharpen how we think, read, write and speak.

As piercing as …

As piercing as …

This piercing stare at a little girl is disturbing for its lack of empathy or even warmth towards a child.   Nadya is the adopted daughter of a powerful member of the Kremlin Communist elite under Stalin.   Formerly powerful, that is.   The man has just fallen from...

As worried as …

As worried as …

I admit that I had to find the mythological reference to understand Erasmus' simile for looking anxious. Yet only just now you were sitting there glum and worried, just as if you'd freshly emerged from Trophonius' cave.  Note: The cave of Trophonius housed one of the...

As close as … (ii)

As close as … (ii)

What would you use for such a simile?   Two peas in pod?  Something else?  I liked this use of petals to signify people crowding in.   Among others things it reminds me of a magnificent white peony we planted in our last garden (and will plant in our next?). ... there...

Pecking up crumbs

Pecking up crumbs

A young girl keeps her expectations low, grateful for what little she has, yet aware that she resembles a bird which in a more abundant season wouldn't be so humble. ... yet I was glad of what I had, as a winter bird is, that will come to your hand for a little crumb,...

And now for the news

And now for the news

A vivid image of a girl running to bring the latest news, like a French frigate sailing in. Beguildy came panting after, apron flying, and loaded with news, like one of the French frigates folk tell of.  Source: Mary Webb, Precious Bane (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981),...

As silent as … (III)

As silent as … (III)

Blackbirds, as anyone who has been woken by their loud, hearty and varied song early on a summer's day, knows these birds aren't quiet in the mating season.  But in winter perhaps they keep their heads down in search of food and shelter, pending the weather made for...

Someday the history of metaphor will be written and we shall at last grasp all the truths and misconceptions in which this intensely speculative subject abounds.  

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 45

Genius as lighthouse beams

An interesting metaphor to describe the haphazard workings of genius, appearing like a beam illuminating the surrounding darkness at intervals, but without the pulsing regularity of the lighthouse.  And in...

As motionless as …

I have tried to think of standard similes for stillness, and 'statue' is an obvious one, here morphed into a figurehead.

Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani: Travels in the Southern...

Of curling waves

Tarka the otter enjoys his first exposure to the sea, with a wave being likened appropriately to a shell-fish.

'A wavelet lifted Tarka and passed behind him, another curled like...

Particles of human life

This week, glad to share fine metaphors both written by journalists. Here The Economist pays a suitably eloquent and moving tribute to Vasily Grossman's writing, capturing perfectly his skill in conveying...

All for me

The writer's friend and travelling companion, Edward, is a motor man.  All things car and bus related thrill him and here he is described in happy-heaven.  What better symbol of...

Lumps of knowledge

In Hoban's book, a boy has adulthood thrust upon him after being abandoned by his father.  I loved this astonishing description of unavoidable knowledge prematurely imposed on his young mind:...

Europe as clammy climate

Europe’s emerging role in the 18th century signalled like a clammy change in climate... And if you think he gives Europe a hard time, you should see some of his...

As miraculous and consoling as…

I wish you some miraculous and consoling intimations that feel like Helen's hand laid across your brow.

'... an intimation as miraculous and consoling as the hand of Argive Helen...

The Land of Canaan

Kazantzakis seems to have studied - absorbed - the places of the Bible, bringing individual landscapes and particularities vividly to life. I can't recall a land being likened to air, rendering...

Dark and small

What a powerful simile, conveying something inward-turning and dangerous through its vivid portrayal of cranial size as a small, corroded bullet. 

His skull was dark and small...

Foxy fickle

Foxes have had a bad press due to their apparent wiliness.  Whether justified or not, this alliterative allusion deserves to enter common usage. Please, next time you refer to someone as...

How many lifetimes does it take to learn the facts of life?  

(And how long do you have to live to recover from them…?) 

Is it fact that helps us recover – or is it metaphor?  

Source: Molly Peacock,The Paper Garden (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 63 – click here for the bestellar review of this glorious book.

The thinker, with his metaphors, will illuminate the external world through intangible ideas that for him are intimate and immediate.   

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 6

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